Jeff Manning with the Cherry Marketing Institute has been fortunate to have worked on a very wide range of category programs, from beef and potatoes to cereal and milk (Got Milk?) to strawberries and tart cherries. Here he offers an inside perspective on commodity board groups and how food retailers can tap into their resources and expertise.
What exactly are commodity boards?
Jeff Manning: Most food commodity boards are brought into being by a referendum and an act of law and are guided by a marketing order. The legislation can be either state (the California Milk Advisory Board) or federal (the Almond Board). Category programs, including advertising campaigns, can also be run by industry associations. There is a program to promote fishing and another for recreational vehicles (good luck in this economy). California alone has over 400.
How are they funded?
Generally, all industry members are assessed a on an agreed upon formula, e.g., X cents per hundred weight or Y cents per gallon. (One common misconception is that the public is taxed to fund these programs.) The industry nominates a board of directors from its ranks and hires a executive director and staff to manage the program. Annual budgets range from under $100,000 to over $100 million. The driving factors are the size of the crop and the assessment rate.
What is their primary role?
Assuming a sufficient budget, they seek to increase demand for their products and returns to their producers and/or processors. They also play an important role in promoting scientific research, both among consumers and at the field level. For example, the Cherry Marketing Institute helped transform tart cherries from a pie filling to a Super Fruit based on numerous nutrition studies.
How can retailers get the most from commodity boards?
Most importantly, find out who runs them and open a dialog. If I were heading up the dairy department for a major, national chain my first call would be to Dairy Management Inc., the second to the Milk PEP board and the third to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Assuming stores in California, I would call the California Milk Advisory Board and the California Milk Processor Board. While I haven’t got the latest numbers, these five groups have a combined annual budget of over $250 million. They also have an unmatched understanding of the dairy case, consumer attitudes, nutrition research, merchandising strategies and eating trends. Once the discussion has been opened, you’ll be able to determine how these groups can help move products off your shelves.
To recap, commodity boards are behind generic programs such Got Milk?, and The Incredible Edible Egg. They are smart, demand driven people with a vast amount of category knowledge. It would be a huge oversight not to collaborate with them. You can bet that your competitors will.
Jeff Manning is an acknowledged leader in generic marketing, specializing in reigniting and revitalizing mature brands and categories. He is best known for his GOT MILK? campaign, transforming the famous phrase from a local tag line into one of the best known, most inﬂuential campaigns in recent advertising history. Jeff is the founder of Got Manning?, a brands consulting ﬁrm.